Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Room With a View

outhouse at a remote mining camp

A Room With a View

Clean, well-stocked, private.  These are things we appreciate when nature calls.  But step into that unisex facility at the mini-mart, or a porta-potty at a public event, and you realize that “clean” and “well-stocked” are nice-to-haves, not need-to-haves.  You can find yourself grateful for nothing more than the sense of privacy granted by the lock on the door. Sometimes, in these situations, you just have to make do.
But what if you lived an hour’s journey from a paved road, far from the world of running water, and miles from the next human soul?  Would a sense of privacy still be important?  The prospector who built this structure didn’t seem to think so.  That’s a screen door on the front of the outhouse.  Perhaps instead of a sense of privacy, he valued the light, the ventilation, or a room with a view.   Or, maybe when he built this, the only building material he had available was an old screen door.  Sometimes, in the desert, you just have to make do.

Tech Notes

90 sec @ f/8; 18mm; ISO 200; star trails (15 * 90 seconds); lighting: blue-gelled strobe; xenon flashlight

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A Good Sign

A Good Sign

A Good Sign

This is the Henning Motel, on old Route 66 in Newberry Springs, California.  It sits next to the Bagdad Café.  If you’ve seen the movie of the same name, you know that much of the action takes place here in the motel.  One of my favorite scenes has Marianne Sagebrecht’s character on a ladder, dusting the neon sign.

I love that sign.  It’s a classic design, and it’s huge—ridiculously out of proportion to the tiny four room motel it advertises.  Even in the glory days of the 1950’s, at the height of both the Great American Roadtrip in general, and Route 66 in particular, when owning a motel must have been something of a no-brainer business-wise, that sign surely cost more to buy and operate than the nightly rentals could ever have justified.  I imagine a sleazy, cigar-chomping salesman in a loud sport coat pitching the sale in a raspy voice: “You gotta have a good sign.  The bigger the sign, the more revenue.  It only makes sense.  A good sign is your ticket to financial security.”  But I suspect if the motel ever turned a profit, that money was made in spite of the sign, and not because of it.

Today, the motel and sign are both in ruins.  Their role in Bagdad Café (1987) was the last hurrah.  But in case you’re interested, the property is for sale.  The hand-lettered sign out front offers 3.5 acres of Route 66 property with a 3-unit commercial building for $125,000 or best offer.  Sadly, there’s no commercial potential here.  The building is beyond reasonable repair.  This property will never generate revenue, and I’m guessing one could probably do better if looking for a residential parcel in this area.  This will be a purchase born out of affection or nostalgia for what was once here.  In practical terms, the buyer will be taking on a real white elephant.  But it comes with a good sign.

Tech Notes

80 seconds @ f/8; 23 mm; ISO 200; star trails (16 * 80 seconds); xenon flashlight on sign

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